Hamas, an acronym in Arabic for “Islamic resistance movement,” emerged out of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in 1987. It was co-founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and six others, originally as a local offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas and Iran both wanted to see Israel replaced by the Islamic state of Palestine. Yet Hamas initially had little connection to Iran due to sectarian differences, Tehran’s ties to Islamic Jihad, and the Hamas desire to be an independent resistance movement.

Relations between Iran and Hamas developed after the PLO called for making peace with Israel. In 1990, Tehran hosted a conference on support for Palestine, which Hamas attended but Arafat did not. In the early 1990s, a Hamas delegation led by Mousa Abu Marzouk held talks Tehran with key officials, including Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran pledged military and financial support – reportedly $30 million annually – as well as advanced military training for thousands of Hamas activists at Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran and Lebanon. Hamas also opened an office in Tehran and declared that Iran and Hamas shared an “identical view in the strategic outlook toward the Palestinian cause in its Islamic dimension.”

Tehran continued support for Hamas throughout the intifada. Aid steadily increased after Arafat’s death in 2004 and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. But Hamas’ surprise victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections dramatically transformed its relations with Iran. Tehran stepped in rescue the nearly bankrupt Palestinian Authority in Gaza, now under Hamas control, after foreign aid dried up. When Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh visited Tehran in December 2006, Iran reportedly pledged $250 million in aid.

Source: / Iranwatch /